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Paint Scraping Reflections

February 28, 2013

Texture by Stacy Wallingford

By Michael Ho, Service Team Leader

Each year at City Year New Orleans, we have a Back to Work Service day to get our minds right after the Mardi Gras break.  This year, the whole corps joined Youth Rebuilding New Orleans in renovating two houses in the Gentilly area.

In my two years of City Year, I have learned that one of my favorite aspects of the work is service days.  I feel most connected to New Orleans when I am in its roads speaking with its people and working up a sweat to better the city. Unfortunately, I was confined to a sling for the service day on the 15th from a bicycle accident.  Seeing as I could only use one hand, I was delegated to scraping old, chipped paint off of the exterior of the home.  Happily, it was surprisingly rewarding and relaxing work.  The best aspect of it was getting to have conversations with Corps Members who I don’t usually see.

At this time of the year, the inevitable question that every Corps Member gets asked is “What are you doing next year?” So naturally my conversation with Raul & Danija drifted to this topic.  It was inspiring to hear their idealism and optimism over the future.  I am someone who lives in the moment, day by day.  I do not have a 1 year plan, much less a 5 year plan.  Nevertheless, I found myself dreaming of infinite possibility from speaking with these two corps members.  From founding a City Year site in Hawaii to becoming an Ice Climbing instructor, anything is possible in this point of our lives. 

It’s refreshing to speak so candidly with colleagues about what you want to do with your life.  Honestly, right now, the answer for most of us is “I don’t know.”  Many Corps Members have found their calling in education, but just as many have decided it is not for them.  Sitting there scraping paint alongside these wonderful people, it’s hard to imagine that City Year will end in just two a half months.  My second City Year ending is no easier than the first.  I try not to think about things such as life after City Year, but, of course, the question gets asked.  

Speaking with a fellow Carolina Alumni and City Year graduate over MLK Day weekend, we remarked on how you never really know what you will be doing from one day to the next with City Year.  That day we were whittling pencils with knives in preparation for our service day.  Just a week ago I was scraping paint in a blighted home.  This Friday I will be rejuvenating the area surrounding one of our schools, and participating in a friendly tournament against the rest of the Corps.  How can I know what I will be doing in a year, when I have the mystery of what’s coming tomorrow to look forward to?

I do not know where our days with City Year will ultimately take us, but I feel privileged to serve the New Orleans community with this bunch. City Year is truly an experience, and one that I will sorely miss after this second year.

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